On AM Joy, Angelo Carusone asks Democratic hopefuls teaming up with Fox for town halls: "Why sharpen their spear that they’re otherwise going to use to stab you?"
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From the May 19 edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy:
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JOY REID: Joining me now is Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, Tara Dowdell, business and political marketing consultant, and Gabriel Sherman, MSNBC contributor and special correspondent for Vanity Fair. Thank you for being here, Angelo. Media Matters was the first to get out there and sort of say that the right thing to do would be for content to be denied so that the advertisers would also walk away from Fox News. You see Elizabeth Warren doing that now. I want to read you what Pete Buttigieg said in defending his decision to actually go on. He wrote, “If we ignore the viewers of Fox News and every news platform that doesn’t share our worldview, we will surrender our ability to speak directly to millions of American voters. If we don’t show up, the conservative media will tell our side of the story for us.” What is your response to that?
ANGELO CARUSONE: I have a couple of responses to that. First, there is this notion that somehow Democrats have already ceded Fox News, and that’s simply not true. Democratic elected members of Congress appear on Fox News 300% more than Republicans appear on MSNBC and 35% more than Republicans appear on CNN. So already Democrats are there. So it’s never been ceded to begin with. I think what the question here is -- so I just don’t understand that argument right, there is this big assumption that’s not borne out at all and so far it hasn’t proven to have any political effect. I think the bigger question right now is whether or not -- and that’s what I feel like Elizabeth Warren has understood, and a lot of these other candidates have not -- which is that Fox News was on the ropes. In a little bit of the teaser you played before, the reason that [Fox News host] Jeanine Pirro got suspended even for a short period of time was because of this advertiser problems that Fox was having and they desperately needed to convince the advertisers that week because they were doing a big meeting that they had some standards. And look what happened: Donald Trump attacked the network because of that. That’s how you weaken Fox News’ power. So my goal is not to empower Fox News and certainly not to enable their single biggest defense right now which is that, “Look, some of our opinion people are a little bit out there, but our hard news is our hard news, and you should trust it.” And that’s simply not borne out. And I don’t think it’s worth validating that particular piece of counterspin that Fox News is using right now to get themselves out of an otherwise desperate situation.
REID: And Gabriel Sherman, author of The Loudest Voice in the Room and very much an expert on Fox News, is there validity to the sort of Buttigieg argument, the Bernie Sanders argument, that you have to go over there because along with the polemics there is an audience that is somehow fungible between Democrats and Republicans.
GABRIEL SHERMAN: Well here is the thing, Fox News, the argument they make is that they have the largest audience in cable news, and that just de facto by its size there are Democrats who watch Fox News just because you have millions of people, you’re going to get some Democrats. Now where this argument falls apart is that for this one hour of a day they will maybe have some neutral questions, but as Angelo was saying, this is part of their business model to sell to the world that we are a legitimate news organization. They have a seat in the White House briefing room with the White House Correspondents’ Association. They are treated like a legitimate member of the media. That only works if the rest of the world treats them as a legitimate media. And I’ve reported that inside Fox News there was tremendous -- there has been tremendous concern about the advertiser boycott. Donald Trump personally called [Fox Corp. executive chairman] Rupert Murdoch when there was talk about suspending Jeanine Pirro. So this is clearly something that is -- this tug of war between “are we Trump state TV?” or “are we a news outlet?” is something that is playing out right now.
REID: And Angelo, we know that the president, when he gets annoyed that Fox isn’t being Trumpy enough and not being solicitous enough, he starts promoting things like One America News, there’s also outlets like NewsMax run by his good friend. Is there any chance that you’re going to see Democrats saying, “Well, if we’re going to go on Fox, we might as well go on OANN too”?
CARUSONE: Right, that’s what I worry about. Especially this idea of, “Well, we have to go out and reach these people where they are.” They don’t seem to be recognizing the reality. It’s even reflected in a lot of these statements where they’re actually validating the notion that somehow it’s just Fox’s opinion part. That’s the stuff that really concerns me, right? When we went back and chronicled, we looked at just Fox News’ supposed news division and we found a single demonstrable lie that would at any other outlet or news operation would have been corrected every single day this year so far. And these are things that affect people’s lives. In February, it was their news division that was reporting that babies were being born alive and then aborted afterwards. So, this is the thing that even when they do this, they are not even doing it in a way that is the least damaging, they are actually validating it. And what I don’t understand is what the goal is. If the goal is to get primary voters, then buzz -- there are more primary voters watching this conversation right now in the Democratic Party then there will be watching that town hall. So then what’s the goal? Is the goal to send a message? And my only question is this: Is the cost worth it? Why sharpen their spear that they’re otherwise going to use to stab you with if you’re not going to get anything out of it?